by Scott Neuffer

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January 22, 2013
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Assembly highlights kindness campaign

Kindness itself was the star of an assembly at Pinon Hills Elementary School on Thursday.

"You guys get it - the mission of our foundation - treating others the way you want to be treated," Drew Stevens, founder of the Josh Stevens Foundation, told students. "Josh wasn't rich or famous. You don't have to be rich or famous to make an impact. You don't even have to be an adult to make an impact."

Stevens said that Pinon Hills has been on top of his list of places to visit due to the school's "Be Kind" campaign and its ability to generate thousands of acts of kindness.

"It means more to me than you can ever imagine," he said. "I'm honored to be here."

Stevens described the tragic event in his life that led to the foundation: the death of his 12-year-old son in 2008.

"Don't anyone think for a second that Josh was a perfect kid - because he wasn't," he said. "But he was incredibly kind. If he were standing right here, I would tell him how his kind heart has made an impact across the country."

Stevens said his son loved sports and excelled in many.

"But he's being remembered for something so much more important," he said, "his kind heart."

The Josh Stevens Foundation promotes kindness by "catching kids in the act of being genuinely kind," according to their website. Cards, T-shirts and bracelets are given to students who, unprompted, are observed doing something nice.

On Thursday, sixth-grader Jonathon Sloan was singled out in a sea of red and black "Be Kind" T-shirts. School counselor Carly Strauss revealed that the 12-year-old had opened the door for her one chilly morning as she tried to navigate a sheet of ice.

"How you treat each other matters," she said.

"I just saw her struggling and wanted to help out," Jonathon later explained. "If you don't be kind while growing up, then you never learn to be nice to others."

Strauss has been one of the main driving forces of the school's campaign. Its effects are visible not only in the ubiquitous T-shirts but in the paper chains festooned throughout the hallways. Each link represents an act of kindness.

"It's an honor to have him (Stevens), and it's an honor to be part of this amazing culture that Mrs. Strauss and staff have fostered and embraced," said PHES Principal Jason Reid.

"We teach self-control, and the next step, one step up, is being kind," Strauss said. "The students now call each other on it, when they're not being kind."

Strauss said even parents have noticed a difference in behavior at home.

"When kids feel connected to the school, when they feel it's safe and that people care about them, both peers and adults, then it improves learning," she said.

Stevens put it another way:

"We're all human beings, and we all need and want the same thing," he said. "Keep doing it, please. Continue to spread this message of kindness."

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The Record Courier Updated Jan 22, 2013 04:12PM Published Jan 22, 2013 04:08PM Copyright 2013 The Record Courier. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.